Alphons K. Koruhama
MODERNITY is a new form of colonialisation that instigates a culture in which most African youths are in a race to be “civilised” and adopt the clichéd lifestyle displayed by the Westerners. Africans are now imitating the European dress code, dance, sport, and language, with no regard for their own local culture or values. Traditional values which are usually expected to aid in the formation of character and ethical behaviour of the African people, particularly the youths in our society are fading.
Some of these traditional ethical values include hospitality, generosity, love, leadership, respect for human life, marriage, respect for other people’s property and respect for elders, as well as how to keep community secrets. Also at risk is the concept of taboos found in enforcing values and was part of the early man’s effort to explain nature and his existence; to satisfy fate and invite fortune; to avoid evils he could not understand and to pray into the future. According to Steiner (1994), taboos serve as a set of social norms and help to explain the division between what is appropriate and inappropriate. According to Steiner taboos were used to convey moral values to, especially children and were described as ‘teaching aids’.
When explaining in from a moral principle, taboos were a useful way of transmitting the same value from a different perspective. Those values worked as restrictions and were expressed at various traditional occasions such as circumcision, marriage negotiations and funeral rites. It was an efficient system of preserving and transmitting moral values.
In a society where there were no police; taboos and traditional values served as a guardian of the people’s safety and sanity. To a certain extent, they were better than modern law enforcing agencies, because in most cases, the breaking of a taboo was associated with an automatic punishment – one did not have to be caught to punished. These proscriptions were aimed at preserving harmony.
However, breaking them was not irreversible. As such, taboos point out to the wisdom of those who created them, who were aware of human frailty (Steiner 1994).
Hence, this article examines the negative attitude of modern youth towards traditional values and its detrimental blow on morality in our modern day society. The article further deliberates the advent of modernity on traditional ethical values.
There is an outcry as far as the loss of excellent benefits is concerned. Nothing is in itself evil or dangerous, it only depends on the way and manner it is utilised.
Modernity stands not as an evil on itself, but it has been used in propagating disobedience to African tradition norm and cultures. Modernity has swept us away from almost all traditional types of social order and moral values, in an entirely unprecedented fashion. It further exposes the various ethical values held in high esteem by the people of Africa. Generally, modernity has led to the alarming rate of teenage pregnancy in our society. In the pre-modern society, adolescent girls were seen to be adhering to parental advice and counsel, and this owed to the fact that they knew little and nowhere except their family and community.
But with the emergence of Globalisation through the mass-media, teenagers are now exposed to all sorts of movies and projections which are harmful to good morals. These vices place little emphasis on sexual purity thereby encouraging young people to engage in all kinds of sexual activities. These activities are what lead to premarital/unwanted pregnancies in our society today. The mass-media possess a significant harm to the growing children who are exposed to the inadequacy of ‘corrupt’ movies daily. As results of what the media exposes, school going pupils are no longer serious with their academic work thereby making them lazy and unproductive. Instead of attending to homework they (the pupils) prefer playing video games or watching cartoons from dusk till dawn. Modernity has led to the collapse of African family values in that the children of most homes prefer to copy the western culture which regards as inadequate and intuitive the traditional values.
Notably, is the general disrespect of children towards their parents as in the past, African children did not look their parents in the eye when conversing with them and that females kneeled to greet their parent’s while the males would prostrate. However, today, a reverse is the case were some children even go as far as insulting their parents. There are also cases where children are at liberty to address their parents in whichever way they like, and they would not be sanctioned or corrected, but it is against African values to disrespect one’s parents. Hence, the present disrespect of children to their parents is too, to be blamed on their constant exposure to the Western lifestyle through the help of modernity.
According to (Mbiti 1986) another way modernity negates traditional values is its role in disheartening the duty of hospitality. “In pre-modern African culture, it is morally right to show hospitality to relatives, friends and strangers. It is held to be a moral evil to deny reception even to strangers. Therefore, when people are travelling at night, they may stop anywhere and receive hospitality in that homestead”.
Today, it is almost impossible even to give a stranger a cup of water to drink for fear of being poisoned or even being robbed. There is also an alarming increase in the rate of theft, manslaughter and rape. African people are gradually becoming a people without a cultural background. They now act and make selfish decisions at will, without considering their neighbours feelings.
Hard work has also become detached from Africans as people; especially youth seek to become wealthy in the most unnatural way possible. In their quest to become rich and drive big cars just like modern people do, they engage in acts which are immoral. In pre-modern African, hard work was the core of the life of the people as children were on a daily basis seen to be working on the farms with their parents. Today, youths prefer to eat farm produce without working on it themselves. In their (the teens) quest to be civilised, they often disobey their parents when asked to work on farms lands and they are found to be regarding their aged parents as “old school” because they feel these people are far from being civilised. The values of hard work are gradually fading away in Africa, and a means to revive the hard work culture should be put in place. The African family used to teach their children that hard work is a cure for poverty.
Modernity has also invigorated indecent dressing, and this has, in turn, led to the increase in rape cases. In their quest to be civilised and socially on point, African girls now put on skimpy outfits which make them almost nude. The imported fashion wears of the western and unsuitable tight dresses have become the standard dress of our youth. This indecent and proper dress code by our people has led to the increase in rape cases as lead minded mates take advantage of this abuse in dressing to violate our females.
Other negative impact of modernity on African is the advancement of English Language over our African dialect. Parents are seen teaching their children to speak only the English language at the expense of their dialect. In fact, any child understood to be talking any African dialect is perceived as “local” and regarded to have come from an uneducated home. I don’t know how this will fall on my fellow Angolan brothers and sister who just speak Portuguese at the expense of their local dialect.
The impact of modernity on the African family is a large one. In the past every member of African blood-line, nuclear or extended, enjoyed equal rights and privileges’. By implication, everyone is his brother’s keeper. There was collective responsibility in bringing-up children and caring for them. A rebellious youth was corrected, reprimanded or rewarded accordingly, by whoever was privy to the action that needed an appropriate response. There was no discrimination in handling issues. One did not defend wrong-doing because the wrong-doer was a relative or from one’s ethnic background. An outstanding person belonged to all, physically and psychologically, as he was a role model for all. But presently, the things which w e held sacred as a people have become so profaned while the tabooed ones are now the norm and the norm is profaned.
According to Leo Igwe (http://afritorial.com/embracing-our-african-identity/), It ss so easy to dismiss Africa’s problems with a shrug or perhaps distaste, but what is rarely spoken about is that many of Africa’s issues lie with our collective identity and self-esteem or lack thereof. He further said: “It is necessary to understand that one of the problems of Africa’s social conditions is the drama of our past – our collective pain and humiliation under the horror of slavery and colonialism”.
From a psychological standpoint, when we are not sure of who we are or when we are stripped of all our identity and forced to assume another, we then become vulnerable to taking on the personality of any stronger ‘character’ in proximity whether or not that ‘character’ embodies excellent or wrong values.
It is self-evident that there are two sides to every coin. It is true also for modernity because despite its negative impacts on moral values it also plays some positive roles. I am not blind to the positive influence of modernity, but I criticise that traditional values are eroding in an alarming situation, such as hard work, respect for elders, hospitality, honesty, fear of God and so on. These values are responsible for the Africanness and human integrity in Africa. The erosion of these values is the basis for the gross immoral act in public and private places in African and Namibia in particular.
I believe it is about time we looked back in history and learned from our ancestor’s technology and techniques. According to (Rodney, 1972) : “They used to advance Africa in the early fifteenth century (period of the first encounter between Europeans and Africans), the continent had already established empires in the East, Central, West, and South of the continent. The realms of Mali and Songhay in West Africa, Tshaka in Zululand, Mossi to the East of Mali and the kingdom of Dahomey in the central part of Africa where remarkable of the most powerful in wealth and territorial expansion. The administrations of the above states were composed of farmers, artists (gold and silversmiths, weavers, wood carvers, cloth makers, medicine men – experts in naturopathy), and sculptors of wood, iron and terracotta. The economies had advanced methods of preserving food. The above revelation shows that before the first encounter with the Eurocentric ideas to development, Africa had already founded its path to progress”.
Hence, if we want African people to experience real evolution, they should revamp their traditional values and use them to advance modern explorations. I believe traditions define us. Tradition and modernity can go hand in hand and be equally beneficial.
On the other hand, modernity doesn’t let our identity fade. Beliefs are something that we inherit from our ancestors and pass it on to the next generation. It helped us to recognise our roots and inform us of our belonging. Modernity widens our views and opinions. Both of them are equally important and balancing between them is a necessity. So basically, the conflict between traditions and modernity leads to diversification of views. In my opinion, modernity should stand accepted, but one should not let them replace traditions. Modern values and cultures can be added up but keeping the traditions intact.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015